My two kids were both in college, studying at the same ginormous university, in fact. Hubby and I looked forward to the phone calls from our busy offspring, and we usually rushed to the phone when their numbers appeared on caller ID, much like our dog Sammy runs to the fridge whenever he hears someone pull a slice of cheese from its crinkly wrapper. But one fall night when we were sinking into dreamland after watching Pretty Woman on TV for the umpteenth time, and the kids were just revving up for the evening (a phenomenon that produced many a confusing conversation), we received two phone calls. The first was from our freshman daughter who was struggling with a rare but real bout of homesickness.
“Mom,” she said. “Could you do me a big favor?”
“Sure,” I mumbled, trying to wipe the cobwebs of the dream I was having about Richard Gere from my hazy mind. “What is it?”
“Could you please make some egg salad for me?”
Now, anyone who knows me knows I am not, nor have I ever been, a good cook. Cooking has always felt like a chore to me, and even though I am creative in many areas, the kitchen is not one of them. But somehow, my daughter latched on to my version of egg salad that, apparently, represents home to her. I promised I would make some for her, we talked a bit more and then I hung up the phone.
“That was odd,” I told my half-snoozing husband. “Yes it is,” he murmured. “Your egg salad tastes like mush to me.”
Before I could elbow him hard enough to knock any images of Julia Roberts out of his dreams, the phone rang again. This time, it was our son, a sophomore.
“Mom,” he said. “Could you do me a big favor?”
“Sure,” I said, wondering how I was going to make another batch of mush/egg salad on such short notice. “What is it?”
“Would you please let me go to Ecuador?”
At that moment, I knew one thing for sure about myself: I prefer requests for egg salad from my children, thank you very much. Egg salad is bland, unexciting and ordinarily not dangerous at all. Ecuador is quite the opposite. Was I dreaming this call? Was this Richard’s idea of a joke? No. When I hung up, my son simply called back, thinking his cell phone dropped the call, and asked the same question.
I jabbed my husband, this time making sure Julia was completely wrenched from his brain. “Get on the other line!” I told him.
In my twenty-five years of parenting, the ongoing challenge, and perhaps the biggest challenge, has been to let go. To teach my children to be independent, responsible, moral human beings in this world. To advocate, provide and educate… and then to let go. Author Dennis Waitley said, “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” It’s a gift to let our children, our employees and anyone else we mentor have the opportunity to rightfully unfurl their wings. Even if it’s scary to control freaks like myself.
So … we calmly asked a million questions, looked up the cities in Ecuador where he would be staying, and checked out the mission group he would accompany. I said special prayers for his protection and repeated countless times, “Jesus, I trust in You.” And then, several weeks later, despite our jangling nerves and the feeling that we really wanted to just lash him to the bedpost, we sent our son off to Ecuador.
But not before I made some egg salad for him.